Mandating ultrasounds before abortions
Stunned, Jones had a horrible decision to make: welcome a child into this world to face a lifetime of suffering or abort him.
Choosing to continue the pregnancy, says Jones, a freelance writer in Austin, Texas, “sounded like physical cruelty.” She made her choice.
She was 20 weeks pregnant on the day in January when her doctor, the same one who delivered her daughter, gently broke the news that her new baby may not make it to term because of the severity of his disabilities; should he be born alive, his particular birth defect would mean he’d spend his entire life going back and forth from the hospital.
A specialist conducted a second ultrasound and confirmed the prognosis.
“It felt barbaric to have to listen to a description of a baby I had so badly wanted,” says Jones, who is 35.
Elizabeth Nash, who tracks states’ reproductive health policies for the Guttmacher Institute, believes the laws are in place not to provide women with more information but to steer them away from abortion.
In the late 1990s, when the trend toward making it tougher to get an abortion picked up speed, women were simply required to be made aware of the availability of ultrasounds as part of their pre-abortion counseling.
But the exemptions highlight the arbitrary ways in which various states are implementing their laws. ) Texas has the most restrictive law, requiring women to listen to the gallop of their baby’s heartbeat, before aborting it.
Alabama — which simply offers the woman the option of viewing the ultrasound image — has the least.
“As devastating as this is, I feel at peace with the choice I made.” Ironically, Jones later learned that at least one aspect of her experience could have been avoided.